Last week, CNET's tech writers were ordered not to praise a gadget made by a courtroom enemy of parent company CBS. Now, their news team has also been given its editorial marching orders. Tim Carmody at The Verge:
Jim Romenesko writes that morale there is plummeting:
CNET and its staff have been put in an extraordinarily difficult position by CBS. They have to prove that what remains of their editorial independence is full and robust. They have to cover news controversies involving their publication and its parent company; these controversies necessarily involve some evaluation of the value of products and competing legal claims. And they have to do it without further antagonizing or embarrassing CBS.
On Wednesday, CNET staffers in San Francisco went into an all-hands meeting hoping to hear that parent company CBS had reversed its policy banning CNET reviews of products that are part of active litigation — a policy that Columbia Journalism Review said “seriously damaged the tech review and news site.” ... CBS Interactive president Jim Lanzone and CBS Interactive general manager Eric Johnson announced the bad news at their meeting: There would not be a policy reversal.
The assumption seems to be that CNET's editorial culture is too weak to stand up for itself--that it's the sort of place where staff resign rather than get fired. But what if the air gap between CNET and its parent has simply exposed what is already normal inside CBS itself? There's a lot of schadenfreude going on around CNET's reputational immolation, but CBS is the salient entity--especially when it comes to how much power lawyers have over editorial operations.